The New Student's Reference Work/Circus

Cir′cus, in Roman usage, was a large, oblong building, used for chariot and horse-races, athletic exercises and wild-beast fights. According to tradition, circuses originated with Romulus, and subsequently these games became popular, and several buildings were put up for their use, the largest being called the Circus Maximus. This was enlarged several times, and is reported to have held from 150,000 to 385,000 persons. In the time of Julius Cæsar it was 1,875 feet in length and 625 feet wide. It was oblong in form, rounded at one end and square at the other, with tiers of stone seats on the sides and curved end, while at the square end were stalls for the horses and chariots. The Romans were very fond of the chariot-race. Usually, four chariots raced seven times round the circuit. Boxing, wrestling and even battles were engaged in. Canals were also dug and sea-fights shown. Animals were brought from as far as Asia and Africa. Free shows were given by politicians to curry favor with the people. Pompey gave a five days' circus, during which 500 lions and 20 elephants were killed. Often the Romans would demand bread and circus-games from candidates for office.